Kim's Reviews > Assassination Vacation

Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell
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Aug 01, 08

bookshelves: gmba, favorite-authors, essays, holy-shit
Recommended to Kim by: I stole it from one of you goodreader's lists
Recommended for: everyone... this means YOU
Read in August, 2008

Okay, I’m totally going to ruin this book for you---major spoiler alert coming up, folks. pssst… All the Presidents mentioned in the book, DIE. I know, right? You’re saying ‘Aww, cheese and rice! Kim! What’s the point in reading this book then?'

Well, lemme tell you….

This book has been quite an educational journey for me. In both that, I’ve learned all this great stuff about the assassinations of Lincoln, Garfield and McKinley, but also in that I’ve learned that people think I’m a freak.

I’ve been carrying this around for the last few weeks, trying to read a page or two on the Shuttle between work campuses or while I scarf down my dressing free rabbit food… and of course people ask that dreadful question: ‘What are you reading?’ and of course I enthusiastically show them the cover and say ‘OMG! (okay, I actually say ‘Oh My God!’) it’s this great book about this woman who takes this pilgrimage to the sites of the assassinations of three presidents and the homes of their assassins!’ and then I get the look. You know the one, right? The ‘how come I know you?’ look or the ‘You are not what I thought you were’ look and I’m thinking, sometimes to myself and sometimes aloud ‘What did you expect of me? Am I really that soccer mom-ish that I wouldn’t be interested that Guiteau was involved in a sex cult in Upstate NY (that would later go on to design the gravy boat I inherited from my grandmother) but got so frustrated that none of the young girls would sleep with him that he later went and shot President Garfield? (okay, not really, but it’s out there). Am I so that boring that you wouldn’t think that I would find that absofuckinglutely fascinating?’ and then I hmpfh off and continue reading my book with a piece of sprout daintily sitting on my cleavage.

It’s all good.

Then I get depressed that this woman is my age (okay, it’s a little better that she’s 11 months and six days older than me, but not by much) and that she’s done so much and can still readily admit that she loves Peter Gallagher’s eyebrows (umm..who doesn’t?)and that the most violent thing that she’s done is shove a guy who spilled a beer on her at a Sleater-Kinney concert. I want to be her BFF. (But, I want her to take voice lessons first because I would seriously rip her voice box out if I had to actually listen to her speak)

Other things that I Love About This Book

--Her obsessions with all historical plaques. Because who doesn’t slow down when they see one of those signs on the side of the road and go ‘ooh! Was there some sort of carnage committed here? Did someone important die?’ One of my jobs in college was working at one of those souvenier-y type carts in Boston and for a summer, we were set up right by the Boston Massacre site. I loved watching tourists come and gawk at this. (they had a neat red line painted on the ground to lead them around to all things historical) I can see Sarah (yep, first name basis with her, so what?) reading from her copy of The Townshend Acts.

--Her description of Emma Goldman (Or should I say Emma Goldman’s description) losing her virginity and I quote: ”For Example, in one breathtaking paragraph she is (I think) losing her virginity to Berkman (she had been married but to an impotent husband); meanwhile, what’s going through her head is the question, “Can idealists be cruel?” It’s thrilling, even though I did want to reach into the page and pat her head, breaking it to her that, Oh my dear, idealists are the cruelest monsters of them all.”

--Her admission that if she could, she would go back into history and rub out her great great grandfather who had joined up with Quantrill’s Bushwackers and was involved in the Lawrence Massacre of 1863 where at least 182 men and boys were killed. (read about it)

--The fact that I cried after reading her walk around the National Mall.

--And finally, that Sarah has made me drop everything to run to Google many, many times.


Then.. ahh.. my poor husband, who at first gave me the stink eye because I was ranting and raving about how great it is that an author can put this historical crap into a book that I would actually read and enjoy and learn from while he stares at the Dos Passos and Gore Vidal books that I’ve hidden so inconspicuously under the coffee table all the while saying ‘I’ll get to it, honest!’. And now that he’s also interested in reading it well, since I started talking about how she compares McKinley’s dealings with the Spanish American War and Bush’s dealings with Operation Iraqi Oil, I take every stoplight opportunity to tell him about the part that I just read involving how cute she and scientist who works at the Funeral Museum find John Wilkes Booth and the conversation that they have about him.

I’m sorry, honey. I’ll shut up now, but let me just tell you this ONE more thing, okay?’
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Comments (showing 1-19 of 19) (19 new)

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message 1: by RandomAnthony (new)

RandomAnthony Ooh, I liked this book...I'm curious as to what you'll think...


message 2: by Michelle (new)

Michelle I saw her read from this at Cody's in Berkeley. While I was amused, I don't know if I want to read it.


message 3: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim Why's that? I admit... her voice is irritating and I don't think I could sit through her reading anything.. but the book is awesome (there I go with that word again... ick)


message 4: by Michelle (new)

Michelle Forgive me, but it sounds like one of those books I'd read when I can't sleep at night. Like Master and Commander. I'd rather have Eddie Izzard teach me about history.


message 5: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim I dunno... I think you'd like this... I don't steer you wrong, you know that.


message 6: by Malbadeen (new)

Malbadeen I didn't care for this so much. I'll be curious to see what you think. I liked the passages I heard her read aloud by her but the book - eh. take it or leave it.


Jackie "the Librarian" I liked this one okay, but not as much as The Partly Cloudy Patriot. That one has a great chapter on Al Gore and Buffy, all rolled into one, called the Nerd Voice, I think.


message 8: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim Michelle, I think you'd really like this. I will buy back the time you've spent if you don't... in chocolate.


Jacks, I'm hitting the library tonight. I remember seeing that it was in. :)


message 9: by RandomAnthony (new)

RandomAnthony I like all of Sarah Vowell's work, honestly...even the radio one, which mentions the college radio station at which I used to work...


Jackie "the Librarian" I love all of Vowell's work, too, that I've read. I haven't read Radio On, though. She came to Olympia a few years ago, along with David Sedaris. It was the battle of the whiney voices! Great!

Did you know that she does the voice of Violet in "The Incredibles"?


message 11: by Michelle (new)

Michelle Kim, maybe I will give it a try. I seem to like the books you suggest even though it doesn't work both ways.
: )

When I saw her read, she talked about her experiences working on The Incredibles.


message 12: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim I really can't handle her voice. You know, I don't think she's ever read up here. I would think UVM or something. Maybe she just wasn't on my radar.


Books Ring Mah Bell Nice review, Kim!


message 14: by Michelle (new)

Michelle Kim, based on your review, I now want to read this book. Thank you.


message 15: by RandomAnthony (new)

RandomAnthony Well done, Kim. Mau, you should read this too. Get to it.


message 16: by Valerie (new) - added it

Valerie I'm adding to my to-read list. Thanks, Kim!


message 17: by J (new) - added it

J Her description of Emma Goldman (Or should I say Emma Goldman’s description) losing her virginity and I quote: ”For Example, in one breathtaking paragraph she is (I think) losing her virginity to Berkman (she had been married but to an impotent husband); meanwhile, what’s going through her head is the question, “Can idealists be cruel?” It’s thrilling, even though I did want to reach into the page and pat her head, breaking it to her that, Oh my dear, idealists are the cruelest monsters of them all.”


Okay, I'm sold.


message 18: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim Yeah, J... I pretty much wanted to just marry her then. I love that last line.


message 19: by Dave (new) - rated it 4 stars

Dave Spencer Kim. C'mon. Seriously stupid way to start a review. Good Lord.


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